March 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Melissa Jacobs Takes Top Library Position at NYC Department of Education

Attracting more educators into the library profession, expanding maker spaces in schools, and creating more opportunities for librarians in public and nonpublic schools to learn from one another are among Melissa Jacobs’s priorities as the New York City Department of Education’s (NYCDOE) new director of library services.

Named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker in 2015, Jacobs has led a variety of efforts designed to encourage librarians to take leadership roles in their schools and in national organizations. Thirteen years ago, she created NYCSLIST, a listserv that is “still one of the leading communication tools that librarians have,” she says. “Everything is really brought together and celebrated on the listserv.”

Jacobs replaces Richard Hasenyager, also a former Mover and Shaker, who left the district in March 2016 to become the associate director of curriculum solutions for Rosen Publishing, which creates materials that integrate literacy skills into other content areas. Prior to her promotion this month, Jacobs served as a coordinator of library services in the district for more than 13 years.

Sue Kowalski, a librarian in the East Syracuse Minoa School District, calls Jacobs a “human connector.”

“She is constantly connecting people to people, librarians to organizations, mentors to mentees, organizations to libraries, libraries to community partners, and ideas to a team that can make them become a reality,” Kowalski says. “When you are with her for even a few minutes, she will instinctively tell you what person, concept, resources, or group needs to be part of your world.”

More collaboration—Maker Spaces

In addition to partnering with nonpublic schools, the school district also collaborates with public libraries in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan—where librarians can check out supplemental text sets for their students. This MyLibraryNYC program “brings enhanced library privileges to schools, including the delivery and exclusive use of a special collection designed just for schools that totals over 100,000 items,” says Amie Wright, manager of school outreach for the New York Public Library.

“Outreach librarians” from public libraries also deliver training to school librarians and the partnership opens up additional networking and professional development opportunities in which public and school librarians can learn together.

Jacobs says she also wants to strengthen the collaboration between library services and other divisions within the NYCDOE. “We want to bridge the content areas with library services,” she says. “I often say every librarian is a teacher. The core expectation is that they are teachers first.”

Media, news and information literacy is one of those content areas that calls for cooperation with classroom teachers, says Jacobs, who was instrumental in the development of the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum.

The Continuum was initially introduced in the district’s schools, but it is now used statewide. The updated American Association of School Librarians (AASL) standards being released this fall, Jacobs says, will create more opportunities to align the Continuum with the standards and find ways for subject-matter teachers and librarians to prepare students to be “future ready.”

Jacobs’s department is also working with universities to raise awareness about the school library profession among graduate students. “I think that a lot of librarians don’t come here on a direct path, and many have worked in other fields and have found themselves in this profession,” Jacobs says, adding that she sees having a diverse background as a strength. “The best school librarians are ones who have worked in different fields.”

Kowalski adds that Jacobs always sees the “big picture” of the impact of school libraries on students’ success.

“She is genuine, and her conversations about the power of libraries over coffee are the same as when she talks to legislators, administrators, publishers, and teachers,” she says. “Melissa’s passion, commitment to school librarians and their communities, and vision for the future make her poised to contribute to the profession where she works and well beyond that.”

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Linda Jacobson About Linda Jacobson

SLJ contributor Linda Jacobson is an education writer and editor based in the Los Angeles area.



  1. Congratulations to Melissa! NYC is lucky indeed.

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